On the Divine

After Sharon LeBell’s Walled Garden meet up on 6/9/22 ‘On the Necessity of Holiness’ it has me thinking about the ideas “what is Sacred” or “what is Holy?”

In my readings on Jungian psychology, the idea of the Sacred, or Sacred spaces, has come up a few times. I am particularly influenced by Robert Moore’s books ‘Facing the Dragon’ and ‘Archetype of Initiation’, and some of Moore’s lectures. He cites the work of Mircea Elidae ‘The Sacred and Profane’ as informing his thinking on what is “sacred.”

I certainly have a tendency to intellectualize and psychologize. During the meet-up, Sharon did an excellent job of helping us to enter a Sacred space so that we can experience it and not just talk about it. It is certainly a challenge when meeting by video, we are not sharing the same space at all, but we are entering a shared mental space. 

The initiation to the sacred space begins with Sharon playing music on her unique hammered dulcimer. The space only becomes sacred when we place a meaning on what is happening. If you view the meet-up recording, Sharon gives instructions to let us know something is happening now, we are entering a sacred space. We let go of our intellectual baggage as best as we can. Then we are in what Moore and others call “communitas” . We are all alike, brought to the same level, and part of a community. 

Compared to your average zoom meeting, the music lets you know this is something out of the ordinary. The key feature of “sacred” is that you have to place meaning on the experience and step a bit out-side of yourself. 

It is not an easy thing to do. Moore describes that some academics on the topic of the sacred would disagree as to whether modern people can truly enter a Sacred space. We live in Profane space, where the external material world has “utility,” as Sharon said, but often lacks meaning.

Ancient people could find meaning all around them, in nature. The world was alive with spirits. Some modern people may be lucky enough to be able to enter sacred spaces through religious ritual. It is not just about the physical space, but the ritual (meaningful actions) allows you to enter the sacred space and then return to the profane (or you might prefer the word ‘mundane’) world afterwards.

I had the same question as Simon Drew, “What is the difference between Sacred and Holy?” I do not think there is a correct answer by any means. But given that I felt I had some understanding of Sacred before Sharon’s meet up, and I had never really asked the question: “What is Holy?” Here is what it means to me.

Sacred is finding meaning, something spiritual, something beyond the material world. Something meaningful is happening here. For Holy, it is beyond just something spiritual, but perhaps this is the presence of God (however you define God). The greatest good is what is occurring here. 

Maybe some people can see God in more of those everyday experiences than others, so that would be the spectrum from Sacred to Holy.

One last thought I had on the idea of the transcendent. The word taken quite literally is to transcend the self. An experience or concept that goes beyond the ego. Sharon said we were attempting to step from ‘I – It’ experience of the material world and utilitarianism to ‘I – Thou.’ I and You. I and some other being. 

In Jungian psychology this is to move the focus of the self (small-‘s’-self) from the ego, to the True Self. The Capital-‘S’-Self. The soul or the state of being that is shared humanity. 

It does not require being a member of a religion to find transcendent experience. For a scientist, the question of whether a new discovery is for selfish interests or the good of others? That is the question of a sacred task. And is it for the greatest good? That would be the question of Holy.

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David Alexander

Psychotherapist | Writer

David Alexander is a practising psychotherapist based in New Mexico, USA. He started studying Greek Stoicism in 2020 as part of a journey of self-discovery and searching for answers about how to practically help myself and others endure the challenging times we are living in. He found Stoic Philosophy to be a useful jumping-off point to explore important questions: What is Human Nature? What is your Nature? It is towards this goal, to “know thyself,” that David started studying Carl Jung’s theories regarding the structure of the psyche (soul) and the workings of the unconscious mind. His goal in studying integrative disciplines of psychology, philosophy, and mythology is to better understand the self, thereby learning to better understand others.

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